On 25 November 1952, the following story ran in the Guardian:
There is to be a special strong beer for the Coronation, it was announced by Mr F.J. Bearman, chairman of the panel of beer judges at the Brewery and Allied Traders Exhibition… ‘Almost every brewery in the country is brewing a Coronation beer. Its gravity will be about .60 compared with .33 for the average beer to-day,’ he said… The Coronation beer will be bottled and… cost about 2s 6d a nip bottle.
There were outraged responses to this news from both puritans – ‘The brewers are assuming that the British people will need double-strength beer… to celebrate the Queen’s solemn act of dedication to the service of God’ – and presumably from drinkers, as the brewers were accused of profiteering from the Coronation.
The Brewers’ Society stated yesterday: ‘Any suggestion that brewery companies will be making big profits from Coronation ales is completely unwarranted. These special brews are uneconomic to produce. They involve changes in the brewery routine, special labels, and sometimes special bottles… The demand for them is very difficult to predict. The purpose in brewing them is to give people something special in which to drink the Queen’s health.’ (Guardian, 4 December 1952.)
Several months later, the brewers were fully on the back foot, and having to explain why they wouldn’t be giving away free beer in their pubs on Coronation Day: ‘What brewers have to pay in tax alone out of sums for licensed house improvement would pay for seven or eight pints of free beer for every adult in the country’. The same Brewers’ Society spokesman also pointed out how difficult a ‘free beer’ scheme would be to administer: some drinkers might be tempted to claim six free pints in one pub, then move on to another and start afresh, and then another… (Guardian, 21 May 1953.)
Today, brewers are still asked to defend the prices of their limited edition, specially packaged, ‘event’ beers, and they still rely on similar sounding arguments.